Tennis Playing Styles

There are four main tennis playing styles: The Aggressive Baseliner, The Defensive Baseliner (Counter Puncher), The Serve and Volleyer, and the All Court player.

In this article, I will look at the strengths and weaknesses of each of these playing styles as well as looking at ways you can beat players who use these playing styles at your local club.

Tennis Playing Styles

4 Main Tennis Playing Styles

1. The Aggressive Baseliner

An Aggressive Baseliner is a player that likes to dictate a point by hitting powerful forehands and backhands and going for winners from at or behind the baseline.

An excellent example of an aggressive baseliner on the pro tour would be Juan Martin Del Potro who loves using his powerful forehand to win points from the baseline.

Other notable aggressive baseliners include Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Serena Williams.

Aggressive baseliners will generally have a very strong forehand that they use to move their opponents around the court and to hit outright winners.

At the recreational level, aggressive baseliners will often have a do or die mentality and this can lead to them making more errors than other playing styles.

How do you beat an aggressive baseliner?

Below are some tips to help you beat an aggressive baseliner at the recreational level.

  • Hit to their weaker side (usually the backhand side) as the aggressive baseliner will find it harder to dictate the point.
  • Work on your consistency and your shot tolerance as aggressive baseliners often will pull the trigger too soon in a rally when they lose patience and this can lead them to make more errors.
  • Hit more slices as often aggressive baseliners use more modern grips on their forehands and therefore often have trouble hitting low balls effectively.

2. The Defensive Baseliner (Counter Puncher)

A Defensive Baseliner (also known as a Counter Puncher) is a player who likes to play at or behind the baseline.

However, unlike an aggressive baseliner, they usually don’t have big weapons themselves and instead use the incoming pace from their opponent and redirect it back to them.

Examples of counter punchers on the ATP Tour would be players like Giles Simon and Andy Murray.

In recent years counter punchers have not had great success on the ATP tour as they have often been overpowered by aggressive baseliners like Djokovic and Nadal.

At the recreational level, defence minded players are more likely to be pushers rather than true counter punchers.

How do you beat a Defensive Baseliner (Counter Puncher)?

Below are some tips to help you beat a Defensive Baseliner (Counter Puncher) at the recreational level.

  • Bring them to the net by hitting drop shots and short balls as many counter punchers at the recreational level are uncomfortable at the net and are likely to space open for you to hit an easy passing shot.
  • Use angles to stretch them out wide so you can open the court to hit a winner.
  • Be patient and wait for the right ball to attack, then finish off the point at the net.

3. The Serve and Volleyer

A Serve and Volleyer is a player who will move in towards the net right after they hit their serve.

They will mainly do this on their first serve but they will also sometimes do this on their second serve.

With the advancement of racket technology, the Serve and Volley playing style isn’t used often on either the WTA or ATP tour with only a few players still playing like this e.g. Maxime Cressy.

Other pro players like Roger Federer will throw in the odd serve and volley every now and then, but this is becoming increasingly rare on the professional tours.

Serve and Volley Tennis is used much more widely in Doubles and Mixed Doubles as there is less risk of being passed down the line in doubles.

At the recreational level, I see very few people try to serve and volley (even in doubles) as they are not confident about transitioning to the net after serving.

I am not quite sure why this is the case as I think it can be quite effective as a lot of recreational players aren’t used to having to deal with someone rushing to the net after hitting a serve.

How do you beat a Serve and Volleyer?

Below are some tips to help you beat a Serve and Volleyer at the recreational level.

  • Focus on keeping your return low so that the Serve and Volleyer player has to hit the volley from below the net as doing this will make it hard for them to hit an aggressive volley at you.
  • Don’t feel like you have to hit a winning passing shot every time they go for a serve and volley, and instead, focus on hitting a solid passing shot attempt that has a good margin for error.
  • Consider hitting a sharp slice away from the serve and volleyer as they approach the net and If they do get to it, they will be forced to hit the ball which will hopefully provide an easy put away shot for you.

4. The All Court Player

An All Court Player is someone who is equally comfortable playing at the net as they are at playing at the baseline.

All Court Players usually will look for opportunities to approach the net so that they can finish off a point as quickly as possible.

Roger Federer is probably the best-known proponent of the all court style on the ATP Tour, with this style of play helping Federer to 20 grand slam wins including eight grass grand slam singles titles at Wimbledon.

An all court style isn’t that common at the recreational level as most players prefer to play from the baseline.

However, it is a good style to play at the recreational level (especially against pushers).

How do you beat an All Court Player?

All Court Players are probably the hardest player style to play against as they usually have an excellent all-round game without any obvious weaknesses.

However, there are certain things that you can do to increase your chances of beating an all court player (see tips below).

  • Focus on hitting your balls deep with good top spin as this will keep the all court player away from the net.
  • Play to your strengths and don’t let your opponent dictate points.
  • If your opponent is super close to the net, then a lob is often an effective shot against all court players who love the net.